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Too much fast food could eat away at your memory, study warns

“These findings indicate that consumption of a processed diet can produce significant and abrupt memory deficits."


Senior Asian woman don't like fried chicken. Elderly Asian woman don’t eat junk food or fast food. Health care and ageing concept

By Joe Morgan via SWNS

Ready meals and fast food could be destroying your memory, a new study has warned.

Eating a diet of highly processed foods like frozen meals, potato chips, and deli meats containing preservatives has been linked with abrupt memory loss in older brains.

Researchers have warned the amygdala, the part of the brain which regulates fear, is also affected by a bad diet meaning danger could be missed leading to bad decisions.

The study found as soon as the diet was supplemented with the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, commonly found in fish like salmon, the memory issues did not occur.

Neuroinflammation and cognitive issues were not detected in the young brains that ate the processed diet.

Hot dog
Processed meats linked to inflammation and memory loss (Shutterstock)

The research team randomly assigned three-month-old and 24-month-old male rats to normal chow or to a highly-processed diet that mimicked humans who eat fast food and ready meals.

Markers of inflammation were significantly elevated in the hippocampus and amygdala of the older rats that ate the processed diet alone after four weeks. Both of these parts of the brain are tied with memory.

Dr Ruth Barrientos, at Ohio State University Institute for Behavioural Medicine Research, said: “The fact we’re seeing these effects so quickly is a little bit alarming.

“These findings indicate that consumption of a processed diet can produce significant and abrupt memory deficits – and in the ageing population, rapid memory decline has a greater likelihood of progressing into neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

"By being aware of this, maybe we can limit processed foods in our diets and increase consumption of foods that are rich in the omega-3 fatty acid DHA to either prevent or slow that progression.”

young slender girl holds a hamburger and an apple against a white background. choosing healthy food, no fast food, space for text
The research team atOhio State University warned of the dangers of highly refined foods such as burgers (Maples Images via Shutterstock)

The two areas of the brain affected are the amygdala and hippocampus.

Dr Barrientos said: “The amygdala in humans has been implicated in memories associated with emotional, fear and anxiety-producing, events.

"If this region of the brain is dysfunctional, cues that predict danger may be missed and could lead to bad decisions."

The research team warned that consumers should not carry on with a fatty diet and take a fish oil supplement as the DHA did not prevent weight loss.

She said: "A better bet to prevent multiple negative effects of highly refined foods would be focusing on overall diet improvement.

“Folks who are used to looking at nutritional information need to pay attention to the fibre and quality of carbohydrates. This study really shows those things are important.”

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